Eat – the little book of fast food by Nigel Slater, Fourth Estate, 2013
I was given this book as a gift about ten years ago. I love the concept. It is a small readable book containing “over 600 ideas for dinner. Straightforward, delicious cooking. For the times we just want to eat.” It’s a book filled with useful ideas of what to cook for dinner.
It’s not always easy to use, as it’s organised by cooking style – in the hand, in a bowl, in the frying pan, on a plate etc. I don’t usually begin my meal plan thinking I am going to eat from a bowl tonight, or that I really want to cook dinner on the hob. How do I know when to look in the frying pan section as opposed to the hob section? I usually cook in a frying pan, on the hob. I can use the index to locate a specific ingredient but it’s a bit fiddly to flick back and forth through the book to decide on the meal. I’d rather go to, say, the fish section and just decide which fish meal I’ll have tonight. There’s a fish idea in almost every section. However, it’s a great book to browse and glean ideas on simple ways to prepare quick delicious meals. I am not sure what I have made in the past, so it was like starting afresh. I was also focussing on what I have at hand right now, in the fridge and in the garden.
We really enjoyed roasted beetroot and tomato w pearled barley, p73. Nigel uses pearled spelt but I didn’t have any, so substituted pearled barley. I had some delightful but very tiny beetroot in the garden that I wanted to eat, and my sister had brought us some extremely flavourful tomatoes. I added some sliced chard because, as usual, the chard is taking over the garden. This was risotto-like without the stirring and my wee beetroot were delicious. This is an “In a bowl” recipe, although a pan was also used.
The favourite at my table was the goat’s cheese frittata, p99. This was delicious. As usual, where you see spinach in a recipe, I have used chard. You know why. I splashed out on a really good goat’s cheese and I think it paid off. This is an “In the frying pan” recipe, cooked both on the hob and in the oven.
Lamb w za’atar and olives, p157, was barely a recipe. Nigel is partial to a lamb chop and in the book he suggests dusting the lamb chops with za’atar half way through grilling. This is from the “On the grill” section and he grills everything on a ridged iron griddle which sits on the hob. Note this is not in the “On the hob” section. The link I have given you points to a recipe from the Guardian which is a bit more specific. Here Nigel suggests you dust the chops with the za’atar and let sit a bit before grilling. He also suggests a delicious accompanying salad. I didn’t have this suggestion so I served mine with my favourite radish, mint and feta salad from the Kitchen Diaries. This has become one of my go-to salads which has shocked my family because it contains cucumber which I have never eaten before. The trick is Nigel removes the watery seeds and just leaves the crunchy, refreshing cucumber flesh. Along side the chops and the salad I served roast potatoes with lemon and thyme, to which I added a couple of fresh carrots from the garden. This is also my go-to approach to roasting potatoes these days.
From the “In the oven” section I made chorizo and potatoes, p299. This dish was cooked primarily in the oven although it does start by boiling some potatoes in a pan on the hob. After draining the potatoes and cooling a little, slice them into thickish rounds. Halve two raw chorizo, and put them in a roasting tin with a couple of shallots, peeled and halved. Add the cooked potatoes and a few small young carrots, thinly sliced. Drizzle with olive oil and bake 20 minutes at 180°.
Mysteriously, vegetable, chickpea and basil paste soup, p318, a main course soup for summer, is in the “In the oven” section, although an oven is not used at all. I chose this soup because I had a courgette, garden carrots and some pesto on hand. Finely chop an onion, a stick of celery and a small carrot. Gently heat in olive oil, in a small pan, and sauté the vegetables until soft. Add garlic and cook for thirty seconds. Add the chopped courgette and sauté briefly. Lastly add a litre of vegetable stock, a couple of bay leaves, 2 tins of chickpeas and simmer thirty minutes. Stir in pesto at the table. A perfect summer user-upper soup.
Lastly I visited the pudding section. I was very tempted by strawberry and cucumber salad, p401, but was shouted down and settled on chocolate oat crumble, p403. I wasn’t able to get apricots, so I used a nectarine. Interestingly, my family agreed that it didn’t need the chocolate. Usually, they are an “everything is better with chocolate” crowd. I suspect the strawberry and cucumber salad will find its way to our table before the summer is out.
I love Nigel’s approach to food and to plating. Like me, he is a stickler for a warmed plate. I’m not sure however, if this book will continue to contribute to our meal repertoire.
One thought on “Eat”
It’s always nice to find a cookbook that gives one ideas!
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